14-15 – The 6’10” junior from Bay City made some strides in his third year in the program, becoming a fairly steady presence at both ends of the floor by the back half of Big Ten play. Matt went through a weird stretch midseason where his ability to defend the pick and roll suddenly disappeared, but at a certain point in February he found it again and finished the year playing very well in what has become a key component of big man defense in the modern game. Down low, Matt was more consistent. He’s added a shot blocking element to his game over the last two seasons, displaying a good sense of timing and mostly avoiding fouls when going for blocks, not always an easy thing to do. In general, I think Matt had a breakthrough of sorts in learning to play without fouling…he fouled out 4 times this season but especially in Big Ten play, he was usually able to play without being overly concerned or having to get passive.
Offensively, Matt found a little better consistency than we’ve seen before. He had periods where it was difficult to finish but a 58% FG mark tells you those issues were fleeting. He also finally showed some of the range on his jumper those of us who saw him in HS knew he had, hitting enough 15-18 footers to give Izzo at least some degree of confidence in making that an occasional part of the offense. Matt also passes reasonably well, with only two more TOs than assists on the year…for most big kids, that gap is much, much larger. He also quietly serves a critically important function most don’t notice in the MSU offense…he is their best screener.
Going Forward – I think Matt is heading for a strong finish to his MSU career. He had flashes of brilliance on occasion…Matt had 11 double digit scoring games including a double/double in the unfortunate loss to Texas Southern, and he hit double digits in 5 Big Ten games and came within a bucket of doing so on 5 other occasions. Yet, I think it was his consistency that really came to the forefront this season. Matt wasn’t often dominant but he almost always contributed, something his tag team partner Schilling still needs to develop.
I think he’s got another gear yet to hit. At times, we saw the aggressive Matt from his Bay City days but still not often enough. When Matt is assertive, he’s tough to deal with and he can impact a game at both ends. When he’s tentative, he’s not nearly the same player.
Matt’s going to be part of the frontcourt blend, no question. His experience, his ability to defend and his familiarity with what MSU wants to do offensively and his versatility in terms of being able to score at the rim and occasionally step away and hit a shot from range will all help him get on the floor. The question becomes, how much does he play and how big a role does he carve out? I think Matt’s going to be a big factor, no question. He might not start but he rarely started this season and yet he still averaged 20 mpg. I would expect somewhere around the same number from him but perhaps with a bit more production as he enters his final campaign.